Monday, July 6, 2009

Coeur d'Alene
Black & White

Part 1

My father, Kyle M. Walker, moved here from Kingsport, Tennessee in 1947. His first job was for a magazine called North Idaho Scenic Land. His writing, photography and public relations skills then led him to the position of Manager of the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce, a job he'd have until retiring in 1971.

In those years, Dad showcased Coeur d'Alene and North Idaho around the world. He ran a booth at the Calgary Stampede almost ever year until the late 1960's, wrote, filmed and produced three 16mm movies (two narrated by Rex Allen) promoting the area and wrote countless stories in all sorts of outdoor, travel, recreation and institutional publications.

Dad passed away in 1989, but he left me with a great sense of humor, an openness to make friends and help people, a good photographer's eye and a huge sense of pride in my home town, county and state. He also left behind a lot of pictures.

My Mother, Edith B. Walker, donated well over a thousand 4x5" black and white negatives to the Museum of North Idaho after his death. I did keep stacks of magazines with his articles and a good number of 8x10 prints. Since I'm going to try my own blog, what better subject matter could I have but his photos along with my memories of living in Coeur d'Alene since I was born? So this one will kick it off, appropriate since we just had the annual 4th of July Parade.

This photo obviously shows the CHS Marching Band headed west on Sherman from 2nd to 1st Streets. I'm guessing the year was around 1950. The big building on the left was the Desert Hotel, Coeur d'Alene's own Pink Palace. Besides Templin's Motor Inn, the Desert was the biggest and nicest accommodations in town and even had a swimming pool. I took swimming lessons from Lorraine Ursaki in that pool (I was the best floater in the group, thank you).

The Desert also had two of the coolest things in town; a large meeting room with a huge mural painted by Ted Anderson depicting the Diamond Cup Hydroplane Races in front of downtown CdA, and in the basement, the Athletic Round Table with it's dim lights, colorful bar and big aquarium. Members of the ART got monthly calendars and I always remember reading the one hung by our fridge, wondering what it would be like to attend things like live music and the Friday Night Seafood extravaganzas.

My parents (mom) opened Ace Travel Agency in 1957 (more on that later) and by 1960, Ace was in the main lobby, on the left side of the main staircase, Registration being on the right. Colorful characters flowed through the Desert Hotel including an Indian man who lived there for a time. He looked like an Arabian Knight and always wore his turban and a big smile. Yup, CdA was integrated as early as that.

Under the awnings (upper center) were two offices. At the time of this photo all I can say is one was a pharmacy. In later years and among other things, on the left was the office for AM 1240 KVNI, back when it really was a local radio station. In the late 50's, the Chamber of Commerce moved from a small log cabin (located within 100 feet of the Centennial Trail Monument at Independence Point) to under the right awning. With both parents working in the same building, I literally grew up in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

Moving east is the Telephone building, now known as the Johnston Building. Yes, there really is a classic building under that black facade. Around the corner at 107 N. 2nd was where Ace Travel began. The office sat, as it does today, just a few steps below sidewalk level. One of the airline sales reps who called on Mom jokingly referred to it as the old Ace in the Hole, and still did when I saw him last some 10 years ago.

Crossing 2nd we find The Wilma Theater, home of the Saturday Matinee where us kids sat through double features of cartoons, news and B-thrillers. Creature From the Black Lagoon? Saw it. Just one of the countless reels I remember sitting through. I was the tallest kid in my gang and even though I was 11, the woman selling tickets always tried to charge me the 12 year old price, my older friends laughed as they paid less.

We'd always try to sneak up into the balcony, success being about half the time. The front row of the balcony tailed off to about 4 seats on each side that were walled behind, necker's nooks. As we got older we figured out why couples liked to sit there.

Damn shame the Wilma was left to rot, unkempt, forgotten, boarded up. We always hoped it could come back to life, like the Panida in Sandpoint has done. How wonderful to have a theater downtown. But, the owners saw it as only a piece of land and a liability at that. When the heavy snow collapsed the roof some 15 years ago, we knew it was never to be. Now it's a fenced lawn, woopie.

From there was, and is, the Eagles Lodge, bars and shops. At the time this was taken, Hudson's, aka The Missouri Lunch, was across the street with the Hudson automobile dealer and the Dream Theater, now all part of the CdA Resort Shopping Plaza.

Coeur d'Alene has grown and changed. It's not what it used to be, but I've never been anywhere I liked any better nor would I have ever wanted to grow up anywhere else on earth.

Stick around, I've got lots more photos and lots more memories.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great start Dave...I tried to date the picture by the info on the marquee of the Wilma, but couldn't quite read what is posted there...first line looks like Ann Blythe, but it could be my old eyes playing tricks. Is the original clearer? If so, mayhaps you can share what was there and we can figure out the year.

    The hydroplane mural was a personal favorite of mine as well...ironic that it was in that room that the decision to discontinue the races took place in 1969. I attended the meeting with my dad in hopes of being part of keeping it alive.

    My brother and I visited the rainbow trout at Orvis, and at the 4th of July picnic at his house we collected bottle caps. Keep up the good work.

  3. Dave, welcome to the world that I so enjoy...being a blogger and writing a story from my eyes. I will add you to my favorite list and look forward to many more wonderful post. Just not sure how you remember all this as I dont :)

  4. yo, yo, yo. This is gonna be fun. Did you used to live off 7th, off 4th , at just about the dead end of 6th?

  5. Lorraine Ursaki?! what kid in CdA did NOT learn to swim from her? Thanks for bringing her back to life!

  6. Thanks all. Let's see.
    No, pic isn't good enough to read. Watch for another photo I'll post later where you can read the movie on the Dream.
    Yeah, I loved Ted Anderson and his hydros. I have a story to tell about a Diamond Cup sign by Ted that I loaned but never got back. It's still here in town, maybe one day the guy will actually feel guilty and return it. 8-(
    I accept Caps!
    That's Sue, I'll need you help to get this ship shape.
    I lived on Ash near Sanders until the folks bought a house at 2108 N. 11th, 1959-60, a block from digging the trench for I-90, and of course I have pics and memories of that.
    Lorraine Ursaki. I saw her at the 50th Anniversary at the CdA Public GC. She still looks great.

    Thanks for your comments!

  7. Dave, This is wonderful. It makes me happy to see and remember all the old places. Also makes me pine a bit for the past.

  8. okay you're not the same David Walker that used to play with my brother when he was really little. :) But I think you are in his class.

  9. Not any other Dave Walkers around my age that I know of. Went to Borah.

  10. Looks like you two hooked up on Facebook!

  11. Dave WALKER? The only other Dave Walker I can say I ever had a connection with was the Dave Walker who started phoning ME when I got my own phone number in 1977. I had a summons served at my home, creditors and even a wife of a lost trucker found me when looking for him. He eventually did some time in the big house. I saw he died about 4-5 years ago. Seeing your name in the obits almost makes one spit their Cheerios. His read that (while skipping everything I knew of him) he had found God and become deeply religious. Don't even start me on that.
    But another Dave Walker?? Are you thinking of Dave Holmes? He lived a block behind me, year older. I know that Dave.

  12. Dave Walker,
    I certainly miss listening to you on KVNI !!!!
    You used to play the German song for me, and
    also my favorites by Jack Scott. I miss hearing
    your voice and loved your sense of humor.
    Thanks soo much, YOU are missed
    Ava Rodgers

  13. Thank you Ava. I did enjoy taking requests and getting to know my regular listeners like you.